In Memoriam Archive

Richard Selzer, MD

1929-2016

Allen Richard Selzer was born June 24, 1928, in Troy, N.Y. Young “Dickie,” as he was known, often accompanied his father on house calls, but he was also drawn to the arts through the influence of his mother, a singer.

When his father died of a heart attack, “it was then and there that I gave myself to medicine the way a monk gives himself to God,” Dr. Selzer wrote in his 1992 memoir, “Down From Troy.” “Not to have done so would have seemed an act of filial impiety. Since I could not find him in the flesh, I would find him in the work he did.”

He received a bachelor’s degree in 1948 from Union College in Schenectady, N.Y., then graduated from New York’s Albany Medical College in 1953. After an internship at Yale, he served in the Army Medical Corps in Korea, where he became seriously ill with malaria. He later returned to Connecticut to teach and to open a surgical practice. (His partner was Bernie S. Siegel, author of the 1986 bestseller “Love, Medicine & Miracles.”)

In his youth, Dr. Selzer was a voracious reader and fascinated by language. After turning 40, he began to write short stories, publishing his first in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1971. Several stories were collected in his first book, “Rituals of Surgery,” in 1973.

He also published essays on medicine in Esquire magazine and received a National Magazine Award in 1975. He gave up his medical practice in 1984 to write full time.

Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Janet White Selzer of North Branford; three children, Jonathan Selzer of Cheshire, Conn., Lawrence Selzer of Winchester, Va., and Gretchen Lehman of Fort Myers, Fla.; and seven grandchildren.

“It is trust, not gratitude or worship, that animates the physician,” Dr. Selzer wrote in “Down From Troy.” “To palm a fevered brow, to feel a thin wavering pulse at the wrist, to draw down a pale lower lid — these simple acts cause a doctor’s heart to expand. . . . Add to this the possibility of the grace of healing, and there is no human contact more beautiful.”

Ronald Baker Miller, MD

1933-2016

Ronald B. Miller, MD, internist-nephrologist and clinical medical ethicist, died peacefully at his home in Irvine, CA, on March 9, 2016 after a short illness. Dr. Miller graduated from Princeton University, attended medical school at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, and completed his training in Boston, where he was also on faculty. He went to UCI in 1968 as Assistant Professor of Medicine and founding director of the Renal Division, Department of Medicine in the California College of Medicine and was tenured in 1972. Though he then entered private practice, he retained an academic appointment at the University of California Irvine, School of Medicine and remained active until his recent illness. He received numerous awards, authored over 100 publications and presented over 300 invited lectures.

His compassion for his patients led him to take a yearlong sabbatical in the budding field of Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine Ethics in 1989-90. On returning to USI he founded the Program in Medical Ethics, which he directed until 2001.

Dr. Miller was brilliant, driven by a moral passion for ethical medical practice and patient-shared decision making. He brought fire to the battles he engaged in, and was tireless in the pursuit of a better society. He believed the each individual has a responsibility to others, and so in living his beliefs, treated people with decency, dignity, and respect. He was well known for digging deeply into issues troubling medical practice and patient care. He loved to take an adversarial position just to get discussions going. He will be remembered for being committed to patients, fair but tenacious in argument, generous with his time as a mentor, and dedicated to advancing the field of bioethics. He had great knowledge and wisdom in many areas, built upon a phenomenal memory and love of learning. He was always a presence in the front row, furiously taking notes.

He will be missed.

His family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Jerome Tobis Endowed Lecture in Medical Ethics: UCI Foundation, 555 Aldrich Hall, Irvine, CA 92697-5600. Telephone: 949-824-5618. www.give.uci.edu/contact  Checks to UCI Foundation, Attn: Linda Haghi, 19722 MacArthur Blvd, Irvine, CA 92697-3954

John D. Arras, PhD

1945-2015

John D. Arras died on March 9, 2015. He was the Porterfield Professor of Biomedical Ethics and Professor of Philosophy and Public Health Sciences at the University of Virginia, where he directed the undergraduate bioethics program.

Arras was a leader in the field of bioethics. He was a member of the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues and the ethics committee of the March of Dimes. He was a founding member of the ethics committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He was also a Fellow of The Hastings Center and a former member of its board of directors.

Arras's research interests were wide-ranging. In numerous articles on bioethics, Arras took on diverse topics, including rationing vaccines during an Avian flu epidemic, ethical and social issues in high-tech home care, fair benefits in international research, ethical principles in the care of imperiled newborns, human assisted reproduction, and prenatal screening for disabilities. On his personal website, he wrote: "My research falls into two broad categories: 1) reflections on method in practical ethics, including varieties of 'principlism,' moral theory, case-based reasoning, narrative, pragmatism, human rights, etc.; and 2) more occasional topics of current ethical controversy, such as physician-assisted suicide, research ethics, and public health."

He is the author or editor of several books, most recently The Routledge Companion to Bioethics, edited with Elizabeth Fenton and Rebecca Kulka (Routledge 2014) and Ethical Issues in Modern Medicine, written with Bonnie Steinbock and Alex John London (McGraw-Hill 2012). In addition, he has two books forthcoming from Oxford University Press: Emergency Ethics: Public Health Preparedness and Response," edited with Bruce Jennings, Drue Barrett, and Barbara Ellis; and a book tentatively titled The Ways We Reason Now: Skeptical Reflections on Method in Bioethics."

In 2005 he was honored with the University of Virginia Alumni Association's Distinguished Professor Award for teaching, research, and contributions to student life and in 2006 he received an Outstanding Faculty Award from the Virginia State Council of Higher Education. His role as a teacher was extremely important to him. As he said in the spring 2014 University of Virginia Magazine:

"I see myself as being in the business of helping students become who they are going to become. I love being around young people, prodding them, arguing with them. There is a Socratic element to it, an intense connection between the teacher and student. It's a kind of secular blessedness, to love what you do over a very long stretch of time. That's as good as it gets."

Sherwin Nuland, MD

1930-2014

We note the passing, this summer, of Dr. Sherwin Nuland, professor of surgery at Yale, medical ethicist, historian and brilliant author.

Shep, as he was known to all his many friends and colleagues, had a narrative gift that probed the deepest recesses of the human body and the human heart. He was the author of How We Die, which could be said to have helped launch the right to die and palliative care movement in the 1990’s; a deeply honest autobiography Lost in America, and other works in medical history, notably Doctors, The Biography of Medicine. His pieces in American Scholar on medicine were gems of clarity and insight. The elegance of his prose was only matched by the fierceness of his approach to complexity and the human condition. He brought art and beauty to all facets of medicine, whether he was writing about Ignaz Semmelweis or death and was, perhaps, the greatest physician writer of his generation.

Shep was a long-time board member of the Hastings Center and teacher of surgery and medical ethics at Yale. The Sumer Bioethics Institute at Yale University was named last summer to honor his memory and legacy. Let’s take a moment to remember our dear friend and colleague.

Marjorie Jean Spurrier Sirridge, MD

1922-2014

Marjorie Jean Spurrier Sirridge, MD, 92, died July 30, 2014. Sirridge was a cornerstone of the UMKC School of Medicine from its inception, serving as a founding docent and later as the School's dean. Combined with her deep appreciation for medical humanities, Sirridge brought an approach to medicine that emphasized empathy and compassion for the patient, characteristics that are bedrocks of the School's curriculum.

Sirridge and her husband, William, were two of the three founding docents for the new School of Medicine when it opened in 1971. Sirridge spent the remainder of her career in numerous roles at the School.

She was highly active in health-related activities at all levels and served on many community-related boards. Among a long list of medical-related honors, Sirridge received the Alma Dea Morani, MD Renaissance Woman Award from the Foundation for the History of Women in Medicine in 2010. Her civic efforts were also recognized with many awards and honors including the Outstanding Kansas Citation and the Kansas City Career Woman of the Year awards.

 

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